Baseball spring training is in full swing this week in places like Arizona and Florida. If you or your baseball loving middle grader can’t wait for the season to start, here are nine books about our nation’s pastime that never strikeout.
I’ll give my regular review to the last one I read ( JACKIE AND ME) followed by a short blurb on the others. This was the second book in the soon to be 12 book Baseball Card Adventure series and the only book I had time to read for MIDDLE GRADE MARCH this past weekend. Enjoy and start loosening up that arm. Let’s play ball.
PUBLICATION DATE:1999 LEVEL: 4.3 WORD COUNT: 28,887
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Like every other kid in his class, Joe Stoshack has to write a report on an African American who’s made an important contribution to society. Unlike every other kid in his class, Joe has a special talent: with the help of old baseball cards, he can travel through time. So for his report, Joe decides to go back to meet one of the greatest baseball players ever, Jackie Robinson, to find out what it was like to be the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. Joe plans on writing a prize-winning report. But he doesn’t plan on a trip that will for a short time change the color of his skin–and forever change his view of history and his definition of courage.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT JACKIE AND ME
- The story was deemed good enough to be adapted into a stage play. It may pop up in your area. Currently it’s playing through March 16th at the Rose Theater in Omaha.
- Kids may know about the unfair treatment of African Americans, but they will understand it in a much deeper way after reading this story.
- This is historical fiction and it caught me several times thinking “Did this really happen?” Mr. Gutman answered my question with an interesting addendum that explains the truth and what was added in from the author’s mind.
- Baseball loving reluctant readers have a book they won’t put down.
- The black and white photos throughout, including one of a note given to Jackie on what would happen if he crossed the foul line.
FAVORITE LINE: I held the card with both hands against my chest and thought of the year 1947. The Brooklyn Dodgers. New York.
OTHER BASEBALL GREATS ( In alphabetical order with images linked to Amazon)
HONUS AND ME by Dan Gutman (1997) The book that started the Baseball Card Adventure series. Joe Stoshack is a boy who can time travel by using baseball cards as his time machine. He goes back to 1909 and has an adventure with Honus Wagner. It’s a fantasy, so if you play along with the gimmick, you’ll enjoy a fun ride to be along side Joe and learn some baseball history.
MUDVILLE by Kurtis Scaletta (2009) 12-year-old Roy McGuire loves baseball but it’s a tough sport to play when it has been raining non-stop in his hometown for the past 22 years. He also has to deal with sharing his bedroom with a foster child his age. Very unique characterizations and filled with baseball genius. It’s a hard to put down book that is very entertaining.
ONE-HANDED CATCH by MJ Auc (2009) Sixth grader Norm loses his hand in an accident at the family store and fears not making the baseball team. Set in the post World War II, the story is heartwarming and humorous, while the accident is handled in a calm way. It’s the reaction to Norm’s plight from his father, mother, younger sister, quirky friend Leon, and other adults that provide the lead-up to a baseball game conclusion. Very uplifting.
PLAY BALL (LITTLE LEAGUE) by Matt Christopher (2013) Though the author died in 1997, his legacy lives on thanks to his sons, Duane and Dale. In this modern story, Eleven-year-old cousins Liam (the catcher) and Carter (the pitcher) have made it all the way to the famous Little League World Series. Making it to the final game will just be one of many challenges. Reserve this one for your most ardent little leaguer.
SAFE AT HOME by Mike Lupica (2009) Seventh grader Nick Crandall has a few stressors occupying his life. He doesn’t fit in with his new foster parents. Next, he finds out he’ll be playing on the varsity baseball tam when their catcher gets injured. The older kids make sure Nick feels unwelcome. He’ll only have a few weeks to connect with his dad and hopefully show his skills in the big game. Rapid pace with a lot of tension and exciting scenes.
THE BATBOY by Mike Lupica (2011) Brian is living out his dream as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers. Things aren’t perfect though as his Dad is coaching in Japan and doesn’t respond to Brian. Things aren’t any better when Brian reaches out to his favorite big league player, Hank, who is near the end of his career. At first he is hostile, but finally a friendship forms. Divorce, steroid use, reaching for excellence, and the love for a father are explored. Great behind the scenes look at Pro Baseball.
THE BOY WHO SAVED BASEBALL by John H. Ritter (2003) Twelve-year-old Tom Gallagher rides the bench for his little league Dillontown team. One game is to decide whether their only baseball field will be used for future development. Tom’s hope for a win lies in a boy who literally rides into town and a former major league player who was the town’s best hitter. Filled with turn paging action, Tom is forced to come off the bench in the big game when his new friend disappears. A loveable ending.
THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK by Julianna Baggott (2009) 12-year-old Oscar believes he is cursed just like his favorite team, The Boston Red Sox. His adopted Mom leaves him with his sickly Dad, and Oscar begins to believe he is the one who will break the curse. This leads to a world underneath Fenway Park populated by cursed creatures. The tale is about racism and includes a baseball game between greats when they were 12. Fantastic characters and dialog.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.